U of M law professor says charter fight headed to court - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

U of M law professor says charter fight headed to court

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By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A local scholar said Saturday that the fight to surrender the Memphis City Schools charter was headed to court from the start.

Daniel Kiel is the Harvard-educated scholar many are turning to hoping to gain clarity in the Memphis City Schools charter surrender.

The University of Memphis law professor, who graduated from Memphis City Schools, said lawsuits are inevitable because the charter surrender is on a dual path.

"Even from the very first December 20 school board meeting, there were always two potential paths to go towards dissolution of the Memphis City Schools," said Kiel.

The first path is the general rule, approved by the school board, plus a referendum vote by the people of Memphis.  Early voting is underway and referendum day is March 8.

The second path is the private act, passed by the school board and city council.  That is a done deal after the council approved the private act last month.

The legal confusion came after the state legislature passed transition laws that only apply to the general rule.

"From a legal perspective, there are two parallel paths to dissolve the city schools," said Kiel.  "The action of the state legislature is on one path.  The action of the city council is on another path."

The only way to sort out how the paths will work together is through the court system.

"On some level, they don't conflict with one another," said Kiel.  "However, there are significant questions about whether both paths are valid or whether the actions of either the state legislature or the city council are going to achieve what they intended to achieve."

Many key players in the charter surrender fight have said the general rule and the new laws passed by the state hold more weight.

"Does the state law trump the city dissolution?" asked Kiel.

Kiel said these laws in question have never been tested.

"I think getting it into a court of law instead of this out in the community back and forth might not be a bad thing," he said.

The are two lawsuits already filed.  The first in federal court by a Memphis attorney and another by the Shelby County Schools.  Citizens for Better Education and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton have also threatened lawsuits.

"Each lawsuit will have its own individual issue and the courts may conflict with one another," said Kiel.  "Or it's always possible for lawsuits that ask the same question and do so in different forums, it's always possible to get lawsuits combined."

Kiel said appeals will follow.  In similar situations, lawsuits have gone on for years after the merger takes place.

To view the PowerPoint presentation Kiel has been sharing, click here.

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